The Forecheck: Mike Cavanaugh discusses staff changes
Longtime deputy Joe Pereira departed for his alma mater BU this offseason.
Welcome to the UConn Hockey Hub newsletter, which catches you up on all the stories, trends, and anything else you might have missed, along with some quick takes and leftover notes from the weekend.
Week in review
Former UConn star Tage Thompson inks seven-year, $50 million contract extension with Buffalo Sabres
What to know about UConn’s incoming class; 29 thoughts on the Huskies’ 2022-23 roster
The Forecheck: UConn has high hopes despite significant departures
The Pipeline: Top draft prospect Matthew Wood ready to take big jump (NHLEntryDraft.com)
How Mike Cavanaugh approached the departure of assistant coach Joe Pereira
This offseason, UConn men’s hockey lost one of the most important figures from its Hockey East era: Associate head coach Joe Pereira. He had been with Mike Cavanaugh since day one in Storrs and, as the team’s lead recruiter, helped turn a program with almost no history of success into one that came within a goal of a Hockey East championship and NCAA Tournament appearance.
Pereira left to become an assistant coach at Boston University, where he played from 2007-11. While he turned down the Terriers the previous summer, the team let go of Albie O’Connell after the most recent campaign and elevated BU legend Jay Pandolfo in his place. Pereira officially joined his staff in May.
Turnover is just part of the business. While Pereira was a mainstay for nine years, he had worked alongside three other assistants during his time at UConn: Mike Souza, Brendan Buckley, and Tyler Helton. Cavanaugh knows change on his staff is inevitable.
“This program is going to be here 50 years from now,” Cavanaugh said. “Hockey is hockey. Nobody's bigger than the program.”
That doesn’t mean Pereira won’t be missed, though. For nine years, Cavanaugh and Pereira worked together and forged a close relationship. Pereira often referred to Cavanaugh as a father figure.
“I think the biggest loss would be he was a close friend and at times almost like a little brother,” he said. “So I'm gonna miss him and I'm gonna miss his companionship.”
When looking for a replacement, Cavanaugh stayed in the family — literally. UConn brought in Joe’s younger brother Mike Pereira to fill out the staff. Mike Pereira fits the profile of Cavanaugh’s other hires: Of the five assistants that have worked with him during his time in Storrs, only one (Mike Souza — Brown) had any previous collegiate coaching experience.
The younger Pereira had spent the previous five years as an assistant at Avon Old Farms, a local prep school. While the prep level of course differs from college, he’s at least very familiar with the recruiting process. Cavanaugh believes that experience will make the transition to college easier.
“I've known the family and I knew Mike. I was watching from afar what he was doing at Avon Old Farms. They've been a perennial powerhouse in the prep leagues,” the head coach said. “Essentially, it's been him recruiting, and recruiting is recruiting. At the prep school level, you have to compete against Salisbury and Westminster and other schools for kids. He has a good eye for talent.”
In addition to his recruiting abilities, Pereira is a hockey guy, through and through. He starred at UMass from 2010-14 and went on to play pro for a couple of seasons, which gave him an additional perspective on the game.
“I know that he lives and breathes the game so he's very knowledgeable. He was an excellent player. I coached against him when he was at UMass,” Cavanaugh said. “I think he has excellent knowledge of the game.”
It doesn’t hurt that Pereira hails from West Haven, Connecticut, either.
“It's always nice to have a Connecticut guy on the staff,” Cavanaugh said.
With Joe Pereira now at Boston University, Cavanaugh’s coaching tree has extended to yet another Hockey East school. Souza is the head man at UNH, Buckley is associate head coach at Boston College and Pereira is with the Terriers. Not only is that an impressive list, but it also shows that Cavanaugh has done well with all his hires.
Even though Joe Pereira was central to UConn’s early success in Hockey East, Cavanaugh’s track record means there’s a good chance his brother will help the program sustain that success.
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The week ahead
UConn has opened up preseason camp, which means the season is almost here. Once camp opens, we’ll have reports from practices and scrimmages leading up to the opener in Vermont.